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Rufino Alvarran
Rufino Alvarran with Jessica Castro

Rufino Alvarran knows all too well what it’s like to be in hospitals. In 1998, he was documented as being only the twelfth person in the world to be born with two sets of internal organs, so in the past 23-plus years, he’s spent more than his share of time in doctors’ offices and operating rooms. For example, when he was two years old, surgeons removed two of his four kidneys, which were then donated to a little girl who had been born with none.

Two years ago, however, one of his remaining kidneys became so infected that he wound up in the emergency room at AdventHealth Gordon and was later admitted for surgery to remove the dysfunctional organ. For Alvarran, who was also born with scoliosis and a tethered spine, this health care experience stood out in a positive way compared to those he’d had in previous years.

“AdventHealth is the best,” he said. “They go above and beyond to help you. The doctors and nurses are good; they’re not just in it for a paycheck. They want to make sure you live a comfortable, healthy life so that you don’t need to go back.”

Hak Lee, MD, the region’s only urological oncologist specializing in robotic surgery, performed Alvarran’s surgery at AdventHealth Gordon in August 2020 using the da Vinci Xi robotic-assisted surgery system. Dr. Lee, who was the first physician at the facility to be trained and certified in robotics, took less than two hours to remove Alvarran’s bacteria-ridden kidney, which had shrunk from a normal four to five inches long to a half-inch in length.

Following the procedure, Alvarran stayed at AdventHealth Gordon for two more days so his care team could ensure he was recovering normally. Because the surgery had been performed robotically, he had only puncture wounds at the robotic arms’ access sites rather than a large incision.

“I had been expecting to have stitches, but there were none,” he said. “They had used glue to close me up.”

Dr. Lee was on hand to speak with his patient once he had recovered from the anesthesia as well as during follow-up visits over the next few days.

“He was awesome,” Alvarran said of Dr. Lee. “He genuinely wants to help you, not just get you in and get you out. If you have concerns, he’ll answer any questions you have, no matter how small. That put me at ease.”

One of the secondary benefits of the surgery was to help minimize the frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) that Alvarran had been experiencing since he was in 5th grade. When he was a young child, doctors had created one larger bladder out of the two he was born with. However, that made him more susceptible to UTIs in the ensuing years. Prior to his surgery, one infection in particular had landed him in the hospital for an entire week.

Nearly two years after surgery, Alvarran still speaks highly of the robotic surgery approach.

“If someone were to ask me what I think, I’d tell them it’s a good way to have surgery,” he said. “I would still prefer it if I had that option again. And everyone at AdventHealth was very nice, very professional. It’s a great place to be.”

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